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January 24, 2015 / sharoncopy

Learning to draw

I’m taking Drawing 1 at Henry Ford College, which means I have the privilege of spending Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 10:10 p.m. in class. I also do a project each weekend to turn in on Tuesday night. All the students post our work on the large white bulletin board and discuss what we like about other peoples’ projects and how the person accomplished this week’s goal.

Last Saturday I sat in a comfortable chair in my living room and drew, listening to my sons’ choir concert from May 2014. I went through several emotions during the 90 minutes I spent on the project.



Regret, over the subject of the project.

More dread, specifically about how long it was going to take to do “this thing”.  Why did I put the lines so close together – this is going to take all day!

Excitement – oh, cool – I can vary the lines this way and that and get different effects.

Contentment – just enjoying the time, feeling satisfied and happy that I got to spend 90 minutes drawing in a comfortable room and chair, alone, with awesome music playing in the background.

Concern – it met the guidelines but it really didn’t look like much – the top section of a drape and curtain rod, done with “breathing lines” that give it a sense of shadow and light.

And somewhere along the way, I discovered the truth about me and drawing. It takes time. This is the same truth I discovered 30 years ago with my first published writing – the first attempt might have some inspiration, but it has to be revised and revised and revised until it’s really good enough to qualify. That’s what I didn’t learn in my years of schooling, because all writing projects had deadlines and were turned in, never as good as I could possibly do, but as good as I could possibly do within the time frame alloted. The upper side of mediocre. When I wrote those Sunday School lessons for Great Commission Publications at the age of 30 – my editor nudged and nudged me to do better, and I found out that I could.

I got an “Excellent! + + ” on the project, which is the highest grade the instructor gives. It means that I succeeded in the job at hand. But I noticed that in my drawing, the dark sections were prominent, whereas in my living room, the light sections were prominent when I actually look at the drape. The instructor said that I would have to alter the curve of the lines to capture that aspect, and I realized: it takes revision. If I really wanted this project to be “right” I would have to re-do it some unknown number of times. Just like writing.

How many of us go through life thinking “I can’t draw” or “I can’t write” because we can’t whip off a likeness of someone or someplace in a few minutes like the guy we saw at the fair or our friend Bob who entertains friends by making quick, accurate sketches. The truth is that we mistakenly think that it should be accomplished quickly, and since it isn’t – we think it is something we aren’t good at. It used to take me days to write a magazine article. I got it down to hours. When I was a Publication Manager I got it down to less than that. Tricks of the trade, concentration, experience. Now I’m learning the techniques of drawing.

What we need to be good at is perseverance.

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